||March 17, 2008
Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies covers some of the most famous--and infamous--conspiracy theories throughout history, including the assassination of JFK and the death of Princess Diana, Area 51, and the 9/11 "truth movement," along with secret societies like the Freemasons, Rosicrucians, the Mafia, and Ninjas. Explore a world of arcane rites and rituals and discover what these societies' objectives are.
Barnes & Noble.com
What do Skull & Bones, the Kennedys, and UFOs all have in common? Your guide to an undiscovered world of arcane rites and rituals Whether you're a skeptic or a true believer, this fascinating guide, packed with the latest information, walks you through some of the most infamous conspiracy theories — such as Area 51 and the assassination of JFK — and introduces you to such mysterious organizations as the Illuminati, the Bilderbergers, Freemasons, the Ninjas, the Mafia, Rosicrucians and more. Sorting out fact from fiction, you'll be able to explore their impact on society today. Discover how to: - Test a conspiracy theory - Spot a sinister secret society - Assess the Internet's role in fueling conspiracy rumors - Explore world domination schemes - Evaluate 9/11 conspiracy theories
I wanted to hate this book. It was one of those moments in the bookstore, like when I came across 'The Complete Idiot's Guide To The Kennedys,' when I said, 'You've got to be kidding' right out loud. Judging from the cover 'yes, yes, I know better than that', I figured this book swallowed the whole New World Order / FEMA camps / 9-11 inside job / Zionists / Freemason / World Domination / Denver Airport line of Alex Jones style balderdash. Instead, what I got was a popcorn-like experience of standing in the aisle for almost an hour reading, unable to put it down.
'Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies' is a truly rare find in a shelf full of drivel. I was already a fan of Christopher Hodapp and Alice VonKannon's book 'The Templar Code For Dummies', and they bring the same evenhanded approach to this material. face it - it's easy (or I assume it's easy) to write a book that does nothing but heap contempt on what are fringy beliefs, like shooting fish in a barrel. But this book is frankly densely packed with a huge range of subjects, crammed into a small, easy to like package. They manage to cover most topics with humor, without venturing into scorn or snarkiness 'with the possible exception of the 9/11 chapter, which IMHO deserves all of the scorn it can get'.
This book avoids being a laundry list of subjects, and the chapters have a quirky logic that seems to work. I have probably 30 Dummies books on a vast assortment of subjects at home, and I always marvel at the way one author will totally get how to organize and write these books, while others seem clueless. Hodapp/Von Kannon are fast becoming favorite authors in this series of books. It makes me curious about how these books are created, but that's another topic.
What I really found interesting was that they take the trouble to analyze where conspiracy theories actually come from. That sounds simplistic, but believe me, it's rare in books like this. Likewise, they don't just write little blurbs about secret societies, but go to the trouble of explaining their history and development, along with whatever they are accused of. There's deadly serious material here, along with the truly frivolous, and the breadth is truly amazing: Freemasons and Rosicrucians, UFOs, Tesla, HAARP, Skull and Bones, the CFR, Bilderbergers, Trilateral Commission. and even stuff like subliminal advertising, JFK, 'Paul Is Dead,' and Elvis spottings. There's a whole chapter on the Mafia that is the best explanation on the subject I've ever read. Likewise, the KKK gets covered in a brief, but very detailed manner.
On and on it goes, and that's why I think this book is so good at a difficult subject, The authors keep it moving fast, but don't skimp on the details. And in the end, they seem to be letting the facts speak for themselves, instead of having a dismissive point of view. To me, that makes this book one of the best on a massive and difficult subject.
Ed King, Masonic Info
Having read all three of Chris' prior books and being a pretty active conspiracy scoffer, I'd girded my loins for a disappointment this time around. Just more Freemason conspiracy (Solomon's Builders) and more Templars conspiracy (Templar Code for Dummies) with a little lettuce thrown around on the edges to make it look fancy and different....
Whether it's organized crime, the Illuminati, or world domination, Chris and Alice take you down the dark alleys of mystery and fear but always keep a flashlight focused carefully so you won't get grabbed by the hobgoblins. Trying to put a coherent order to the 'weird things of the world' would be a daunting task for anyone but the authors start with a very plausible premise: it all began with the French Revolution. They frequently reach back to that touchstone as the net grows wider in explaining the bizarre and while you might not accept it at face value, you soon realize that the premise has LOTS of merit.
In the basic areas of foolishness (such as the Hoaglund 'Face on Mars'), the authors are wryly dismissive but in the more controversial or confusing things there's a calm and deliberate presentation of facts and a laying out 'common knowledge' interspersed with 'the rest of the story' (i.e., the FACTS!). In few cases they do pull out the 'tin-foil hat' award but otherwise it's basic exposition with an admission that there's no answer when, in fact, there is none. There's no doe-like innocence to be found but neither is there overt criticism. It's reminiscent of Sergeant Friday: "Just the facts, ma'am." - but this time with some humor added.
It's clear that Chris and Alice have read from the major skeptics before beginning and they regularly refer to specific (and qualified) debunkers. Apropos of the subject, the book cries out for an annotated bibliography. Sadly, such is not the style of the 'Dummies' series. I'd happily pay extra for that because it would save me wearing out the binding looking back for things all the time. Sadly too, there aren't NEARLY enough Rich Tarrant cartoons here to satisfy: when you're knee deep in alien space monsters or gangland retribution, a little graphic levity can help!
Because the author's three prior works were so steeped in Masonic 'stuff', I was expecting to simply skip over the Masonic section as 'old hat'. What a mistake that would have been. Somehow this book has managed to circumvent the 'old wine - new bottle' conundrum and has included a fresh and relevant approach coinciding with the book's title. They've got what essentially could be called the 'elevator pitch' on Freemasonry with explanations that are simple and understandable - and something any Mason could use when asked that question "What is Freemasonry?" that brings even long-term members to the point of stuttering.
I did have a couple of small quibbles. One was the mention of a meeting between two 18th century conspiracists, John Robison and Abbe Barruel. My prior reading indicated that this had never occurred but they simply acknowledged (belatedly) the work done by the other (and, in fact, Barruel was quite dismissive of Robison's work. Vernon Stauffer's seminal work on this topic provides a quote in support of this. It's a bit of minutiae we can arm wrestle over elsewhere and it does not in any way lessen the assumptions, conclusions or assessments which cover FAR more ground more accurately and intelligently than any other work on this topic. The other quibble involved the loss by the town of Roswell, New Mexico of some 5,000 souls between the start of a paragraph and the end. Then again, who knows: maybe it was a conspiracy!
Like the Hodapp family predecessors, this is a book with an easy to read style and it's one you can consume in small pieces at your leisure. I'll bet, though, that like me you'll devour it within a few pleasant hours and set it down having learned a bunch of things about events and organizations you thought you had thoroughly understood prior to that. If you're looking to debunk things like the origins of the Rosicrucians or your friend who's convinced he has all the facts about 9/11, then this is the book for you. Of course, if you think that David Icke is the true messiah or that Coast to Coast is more factual than National Public Radio, you won't enjoy it AT ALL! Move along: there's nothing to see here....
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